So I’m Consulting Now… No, Really I Am

Article contributed by Matt Prohaska, Principal, Prohaska Consulting

Our goal with this column is to discuss the world of consulting/freelancing and highlight the landmines and opportunities, whether you are currently a consultant, thinking about becoming one, or looking to hire one. I will dive into the challenges our industry faces in scaling and leveraging all of our combined skillsets and talents across the full-time/part-time/no-time workforce, but first I’d like to share a little of my story only to serve as a qualifier.

For those of you who don’t know me, see here…but I’m consulting now…no, really, I am…I know that’s what many people say when they are out of work, but this time it’s different.

Check out LinkedIn for my background over the last 20 years, but warning that parts can read like Dante’s Inferno, especially if you are a recruiter or CEO sifting through everything I’ve done and everywhere I’ve been. Fortunately many in our industry understand to a degree that short stints are a reality and things happen. But when I started looking for a new full-time gig last summer, it was tough finding a management position since most companies don’t decide to add/replace their head of sales/biz dev…every Thursday and if I haven’t worked with you or you don’t know someone really well that has worked with me, it can be a hard sell telling a CEO why I can run a certain team if I haven’t done only that in my last three jobs.

But it’s last October and I tell my wife it looks like there could actually be four exciting offers coming. One came in very low and had a planned structure not setup to succeed; another was punted to late Q1 while they did a re-org; another hired two sales directors instead of a new head of sales; and I politely dropped the last after hearing concerning backdoor references about the CEO.

So I’ve got nothing going into the holidays except my three relatively small consulting projects. Two other times since ’99, I’ve done reactive consulting while looking for a new job. Each time I’d pick up 3-5 clients on the “yeah, I’m free to help out, thanks for asking” and think this could become something I just keep doing. Then a fun-sounding full-time gig comes along and I think, “Oh, base salary, health benefits, stock options…those are good things to have,” and I jump back in.

This time, part from necessity (“mother of invention,” right?) but mostly from the desire to go independent and leverage my generalist background, I decided to give full effort in building a real consulting practice. One 1-sheeter, 400 individual emails and five months later, I’ve discovered there is a big need for what we’re doing now at Prohaska Consulting Today, I am fortunate to have nine great clients with several in the pipeline and other senior-level freelancers helping out on various initiatives.

I have kept an Excel pipeline of my job search that has now turned into a pipeline of helping others, primarily for karma.  As of this writing, I have heard about 118 current jobs open and 61 people actively looking for new work. I’m sure most of you know at least 2 good people looking for a new job right now.

I know this isn’t an original thought, but there is a big talent gap where companies that cannot raise/find the funding to bring on/replace a full management team, need interim/ongoing help driving revenue, saving costs, building new partnerships, and running much of their entire operation. I’d guess our industry has found more people jobs the past 12 months than the previous 36, but there is a ways to go, and I am meeting many folks that either have gone full-time freelance or are thinking hard about it.

This column will help you and those thinking about bringing people like you on board. I look forward to the ongoing discussion and please email me/post here with future topic ideas. In the meantime, what has been your best or worst experience either hiring or being hired as a consultant?